Memory: Record/Erase is Nalini Malani’s first use of stop-motion animation, a technique she has incorporated into the immersive video installations that characterise her practice. Thematically, the animation explores the construction and layering of memory suggested by the work’s title, while addressing the social status and roles of women.
The video opens with a scrolling press clipping about a woman caught impersonating her dead husband to keep a job as a factory guard. Malani pairs this with two paragraphs from the short story The Job by the German playwright Bertolt Brecht, the plot of which the news story echoes. The text suggests the destitution the woman returned to after losing the job, as one of ‘millions’ who are ‘lost forever’.
The work unfolds as a drawing that Malani continuously builds and effaces on a medium-brown surface. The sounds of breathing, children laughing, ambient noise, and music accompany the visuals. The drawings depict faces and bodies, animals, and shapes at different scales. At one moment, the drawing appears to become wet and its images begin to run. In its relentless change, the work suggests restlessness and the fragility of identity.
Nalini Malani (b.1946, British India) is a pioneer in video art. Her family’s experience of displacement during the 1947 Partition of India strongly influenced her early life and her later activism. Over her long and prolific career spanning film, installation, and painting, she has continually examined the ways political conflicts and social structures affect women and other marginalised communities.